We returned to Scottsdale via a scenic route, staying overnight at Flagstaff again. Along the way, we admired the fall foliage in the higher altitudes.
We stopped for lunch at Lake Powell. It was just as startling as the first time to see this stretch of water in the middle of the desert.
On Thursday, we headed back to Scottsdale. We stopped at Forscher German Bakery to buy pastries, The Honey Stand and Timeless Antiques in Pine, AZ where I purchased some Thanksgiving decorations.
Then I got a text message from our daughter that made my pulse race. “You have get an earlier flight,” she wrote. “The doctor said I’ll need to have a C-Section within 24 hours.” We knew she’d been scheduled for a C-Section as her baby was breech. But it had been scheduled for Oct. 22. This was Oct. 10.
Once back at my cousin’s house, I changed our flight from Sunday to Friday. Early the next morning, I got a message on my phone. Our daughter was at the hospital waiting for surgery. Hours later, our beautiful grandson was born. And so began our new journey as grandparents.
We drove to Bryce Canyon City on Monday. It took us most of the day to get there. Our views along the way were one spectacle after another.
Lots of hotels, gas stations, and eateries populate this town that borders on Bryce Canyon. We stayed at historic Ruby’s Inn and ate dinner our first night in the lodge restaurant. The gift shop at Ruby’s Inn has about every souvenir you could want plus a fully stocked food market for campers.
The next evening, we attended Ebenezer’s Barn & Grill for a country music dinner show. It was a fun evening with better food than the night before.
On Sunday morning, we began our road trip from Fountain Hills to Flagstaff, Arizona. My cousin drove, while her friend Carol accompanied us. We were excited to see parts of Arizona we’d never visited before. The scenic drive took us through curvy mountain roads and evergreen-lined forests as we reached higher elevations.
Flagstaff sits almost 7000 feet above sea level. It’s a historic town, and we toured the downtown district. Here you’ll find a bounty of restaurants and cafes mixed among gift shops and boutiques. You might have to walk slower if you’re not used to the altitude and get short of breath. The area has many things to do if you’re able to stay. We were passing through, so we couldn’t take advantage. This was merely our overnight stop on the way to Bryce Canyon.
We crossed into Utah the next day at the Glen Canyon Bridge. Unaccustomed to seeing any waterways in the dry desert, we marveled at Lake Powell glistening below our vantage point. Inside the Carl Hayden Visitor Center, we read the history of the region and stared through big glass windows at the dam below. Like the Hoover Dam in Nevada, the Glen Canyon Dam was a sight we wouldn’t forget.
Our trip to Arizona began in Scottsdale and ended abruptly with an early flight home. When we first arrived, we were met by my cousin Janice who whisked us to her lovely house atop a hill overlooking a mountain. My husband and I had a casita to ourselves where we enjoyed the expansive views.
I couldn’t help marveling at the lack of grass, the tall saguaro cactus, the wildflowers, and the distinctive shrubbery. Here’s a sign that caught my fancy and brought home visions of the Wild West.
We’d been to Arizona before and were stunned by the scenery and magnificent landscapes. I wrote about it in Peril by Ponytail, my mystery novel that won third place in the Arizona Literary Awards. Marla Vail, my hairstylist sleuth, meets her husband’s extended family for the first time and discovers family secrets no one wants exposed. It was a blast to write with so much material about this amazing state.
On this trip, I planned to take no notes and to completely relax. It almost worked, except for the frantic finale which I’ll get to later. We spent the next few days at leisure, shopping and dining while adjusting to the three-hour time change. One day at lunch found us at CopperWynd Resort in Scottsdale. The view from the terrace was amazing.
Fate led us to dinner at an Italian restaurant where we ran into my cousin’s friends. The talented musician playing there that night was son to one of these ladies. We enjoyed the food, the ambiance, and the music by Scott Hallock.
We capped our trip to Arizona with a ninety-minute narrated boat tour via the Desert Belle across Saguaro Lake. This is part of a series of lakes linked together by dams. We ate lunch in the restaurant by the dock, overlooking the water and various cacti off to our side.
The boat has two decks. We chose to sit in the air-conditioning on the lower level by the snack bar, although you could open the windows wide for fresh air and to take photos. An awesome view unfolded as we cruised between canyon walls, spotted caves dotting the cliffs, and saw marsh grasses waving in the current. It was a lovely tour and a fitting finale to our wonderful journey. Here are some final views, now a fond memory. Below is a farewell photo from our last lunch in Fountain Hills.
How does this relate to my story? I doubt that my sleuths, Marla and Dalton, will have to time to cruise around a lake in Peril by Ponytail when they’re busy solving murders. However, I have enough material for more than one book, so you just might see these scenes in another Drift Lords tale. I can just see one my hunky heroes having to steal a boat, find a hidden cave entrance, and search inside for another clue to whatever mythical quest has drawn him there. When you’re a writer, all material becomes fodder for a story.
A visit to Tombstone, AZ isn’t complete without a stop at the Bird Cage Theater, which is supposed to be haunted. It’s fascinating to explore the varied sections of this old establishment and view the artifacts stored there.
Opened in 1881, this one-and-a-half story structure held a saloon, theater, and balcony seating. It closed due to diminishing business in 1889. Subsequent owners renovated and reopened the theater for various purposes. Ghost stories kept guests coming back.
One of the supposed ghostly residents was a jealous woman who lived next store and frequented the theater. She died by overdosing on rat poison. Another tale involved two ladies who liked the same man. One woman stabbed the other while the man watched from his poker game. Some guests have reported seeing a stage hand walking across the stage. Others report seeing a woman’s apparition on the catwalk, smells of perfume or cigars, objects moving on their own, and other phenomenon.
Since the fictional ghost town in Peril by Ponytail, my WIP, has an old theater like this, you can guess what I used as a model. Here’s brief excerpt where Dalton’s cousin is giving him and Marla a tour of his renovation project:
“The only thing we have to fear here is other people.” Dalton’s statement put them firmly back on the ground. “So you’re saying what the man saw on the hill might have been a real person, and he went to investigate, never to return?”
“That’s not what my workforce believes. They think he saw La Catrina summoning him to glory. I took a look around there myself and came up empty. These stories about spooks are hogwash, if you ask me.”
Marla wasn’t so sure. She glanced up as a shadow flickered in her peripheral vision. Was someone up there in the rafters?
A rattling noise sounded right before a chandelier came crashing down from above.
So what do you think? Did a ghost loosen that heavy chandelier or a human culprit?
We couldn’t resist touring the Epitaph Museum that housed the old printing press where they put out an early newspaper. How far we’ve come from this cavernous hall to the newsrooms of today.
Tombstone is a great place to visit. It’ll make you appreciate our country’s history, the early pioneering days, and how rough life must have been for the settlers. You can pay homage to them at Boothill Graveyard on your way out of town. Note the Jewish monument below.
If you’re a history buff or a fan of historical recreations, you’ll want to visit Tombstone, Arizona. This site of the infamous gunfight at the O.K. Corral has been remade into a tourist town with quaint shops and restaurants, museums, and a reenactment of the gun battle that resonated throughout history.
We stayed at the Landmark Lookout Lodge, an easy ten minute drive from the heart of town. The oldest house dates back to 1879. The town started when a cavalry scout discovered silver. When he proposed exploring the hills, he was told, “The only thing you’ll find out there is your tombstone.” Hence the town name.
The Good Enough Mine is open today but we didn’t have time to go. This one has a vertical shaft and is located off Toughnut Street, so-called because if you could walk outside without being shot or stabbed, you were a tough nut. The mine went down 600 feet where it hit the aquifer, so water had to be pumped out. It closed operations when silver prices dropped.
Along this street worked the attorneys who served the courthouse, now a museum. There’s still a gallows in the backyard where seven men were hanged. The white fenced house a little further down used to be a pleasure palace, if you know what I mean.
We took a trolley tour, and our friendly guide wearing a brown cowboy hat explained the sights along the way. There was Doc Goodfellow’s house. He signed an outlaw’s death certificate and lived on Toughnut Street. The sheriff’s house was here, too. A couple of thousand Chinese used to live in Tombstone. They worked as merchants and miners. Their women ran prostitution and opium rings. The guide pointed out many of the historic buildings, telling stories that went along with them.
Back on the main street, we shopped in the interesting gift shops, ate in the saloons, attended a historical diorama in a little theater, and bought tickets for the infamous gunfight reinactment. If I got the info correct, 30 shots were fired that day and 3 men were killed. Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday are the featured heros. Here is my first attempt at a video.
How does this relate to the story I’m writing? In Peril by Ponytail, Marla and Dalton visit a dude ranch run by his cousin, Wayne. Wayne’s father is renovating a nearby ghost town. Guess what I used as a model? My fictional town is loosely based on a combination of Tombstone and Jerome (Oct. 30 post).
Coming next: Tombstone, Part 2—The haunted Bird Cage Theater and Boothill Cemetery.
Entering a copper mine deep inside a mountain was one of the more awesome things we did on our trip to Arizona. Gathering inside the main building at the Bisbee Copper Queen Mine, we explored the rocks for sale inside the gift shop until our group was called.
We were each given a brass tag with a number, like a real miner. These would survive in case of an explosion or cave-in to identify the bodies. This was called “brassing in” when miners reported for duty. At the end of his shift, the miner would turn his tag back in to the timekeeper. Here’s a replica from the Bisbee historical museum of the timekeeper’s station.
Then we each went along an assembly line to get outfitted. With assistance from a seasoned miner, we donned yellow slickers, lights around our necks, belts and helmets. From here, we boarded a tram for our ride into the mountain. We sat astride like on a horse. A bell clanged, and the tram jerked forward. A gap yawned in front of us as we moved ahead. Wheels creaked as we entered a dark tunnel with chiseled rock walls.
We glimpsed other passages leading off into pitch blackness as we rattled deeper into the interior. Rocks glistened in places from crystals. Dust-covered ore carts and discarded tools lay about. The only way we could see in the dark was with our lights. Wood supports shored up the walls at intervals. Loose rock was “barred” or secured behind metal bars.
This mine, unlike others, was cool with a temperature in the fifties. That’s because air flows in from outside. We rode horizontally into the mountain. Other mines go straight down. Those mines are hotter and need air pumped in. This one evolved from a natural hole and was discovered by army scouts in 1877. Because methane gas wasn’t a danger here, miners could smoke in these tunnels. However, the men had to hand roll their cigarettes so they would go out if dropped.
Riding on the tram, I felt someone tap my head. I twisted around. My husband hadn’t done it. Who, then? A ghost? Mines were rife with accidents: explosions, cave-ins, tumbles down the shaft, falling rock. Who knew how many workers had died there? Unexpectedly, lots of orbs showed on some of my photos. Spiritual entities or dust motes? More scenes from the museum.
Eventually we came to a stop and got off at a big dug-out chamber where our guide explained about mining methods. Miners worked by candlelight and swung a pickax to break off rock from the walls. If the rock was too hard, they drilled holes in the rock using a steel drill bit and a sledgehammer. They’d put in a stick of dynamite and light the fuse. This broke up the rock and expanded the tunnel. They’d transport the ore to chutes. It went down into ore carts which were pulled by mules. The mules lived in the mines. When their time was up, they were taken to the surface with blinders on and their vision gradually restored so they didn’t go blind from the brightness.
We saw the metal toilets where early miners did their business as they toiled for 12 hour shifts underground. Those seats must have been chilly!
If a miner needed to reach the surface, he’d tug a rope pull by a cage. The cage operator would send down the open wood platform. We saw the boss’s tricycle (or similar conveyance) by which he checked on his men twice a day.
They pumped in air and water. The water cut down on dust, which could damage the lungs. The compressed air was used in machinery-operated drills once they became available. Today, the mines are tested for radon gas. Other types of mines have to be tested for air and methane gas. You can light a candle to see if there’s air flow. Parakeets were used to detect dangerous gases. Miners would equip themselves with a helmet, candles and matches, lunch pail, and sometimes a survival kit or gas mask.
Copper doesn’t deposit in veins like gold. It’s mixed in the ore, so processing techniques are needed to separate it from other substances. It would have been sent to a stamp mill for crushing and refining. Side products could be gold, silver, zinc, lead, and other minerals.
I learned a lot more when we went to the history museum in Bisbee, after a pleasant lunch in town. Bisbee is built among the hills and has some interesting shops and restaurants as well as a historic hotel.
I won’t bore you with further details about mining, but they were fascinating. The method used today is called the open pit technique. You can see the results at the Lavender Pit. It’s not a pretty sight.
Disclaimer: Any inaccuracies are due to my note taking and not the information presented.
How does this relate to my story? In Peril by Ponytail, Marla and Dalton are staying at an Arizona dude ranch owned by his uncle. Raymond is also renovating a ghost town that used to be a former copper mining camp. Marla’s exploration of a hillside where a worker vanished leads to an astounding discovery. Consider the information above and use your imagination to determine where Marla and Dalton find themselves next.
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Normally you’d associate a dude ranch with horses, right? But do you also add in opportunities to partake in educational lectures, spa treatments, fishing and gourmet food? At Tanque Verde Dude Ranch outside of Tucson, Arizona, you have the chance for these activities and more.
I was pleasantly surprised as we drove up to the main lobby to note the green landscaping amid curving paths. Single-story pink adobe buildings are scattered throughout the property, each housing either guest quarters or public gathering places. It was pleasant strolling around the grounds and a hike in itself climbing the road to the haciendas at the top.
The more expensive accommodations overlook Saguaro National Forest and the mountains beyond. We stayed in a casita, a large rustic bedroom suite with a fireplace, dining alcove, seating arrangement, and modern bathroom facilities. Notably lacking was a television. The theory is you’re so tired out after being active all day that you’ll retire early.
Daytime activities range from riding horses to nature hikes to lounging by the pool, playing a round of tennis, or getting a massage. You can visit the nature center and speak to a naturalist about wildlife in the area or track down a wrangler for a horseback riding lesson.
Evenings might find you at an outdoor barbecue, attending a lecture, or relaxing on your patio with a good book. Maybe they’ll add a ghost tour in the future if the resort is found to have some associated ghost stories. Cooking demos might be another added attraction as the food was excellent. The dining hall offers a buffet for breakfast and lunch and a sit-down menu for dinner. Stop by the Dog House Saloon for a drink later in the evening.
In the same building as the dining room is a card room, cozy sitting room with leather couches and a TV, and a space for evening lectures. Nearby is a gift shop with souvenir items.
I didn’t get a chance to participate in any of the activities except for the evening historical talk because I was busy all afternoon interviewing staff members for my next mystery. I came prepared with a list of specific questions. Although I am not a horse person, staying at a dude ranch could grow on me. Certainly I like the feeling of being pampered, which you get with the inclusive meals and the spa facilities.
Taking walks, reading, and appreciating nature is a vacation in itself. I enjoyed strolling the paths and reading the labels on the desert plants and trees.
If you want to get away from it all and be close to nature, a dude ranch vacation may suit your needs.
How does this location relate to my next story? In Peril by Ponytail, Marla and Dalton accept an offer by his cousin to stay on a dude ranch for their delayed honeymoon. Naturally, where they go, mischief and mayhem follows. Does Marla learn to like horses? Stay tuned to find out.
Thanks to the staff at Tanque Verde Dude Ranch for graciously answering my questions. If you want more information about this popular destination, Click Here.
One night in Scottsdale, I was invited to do a booksigning and discussed at The Poisoned Pen Mystery Bookstore. After a quick gourmet dinner nearby at Virtu, I entered the inviting store and introduced myself to the staff. Lee, Patrick, and David were all very helpful. They were enthusiastic about my books and set up a ring of chairs for guests.
The seats quickly filled and a lively discussion ensued. I talked about my Bad Hair Day mysteries and related how I was researching my next mystery while in Arizona. I’ve already written the synopsis for Peril by Ponytail and determined my cast of suspects. But I can’t begin writing without seeing the setting details in person. My experiences already caused me to make plot changes and altered my impression of the desert.
A good time was had by all. Many thanks to the Poisoned Pen. Hope to see you guys again soon! If you’re in the Scottsdale area, be sure to stop in. http://www.poisonedpen.com